Tag Archives: aunt kathleen

Meet The Mayor of Crazie Town

Hello, my long-lost readers.

Wait.

You weren’t lost, I was.

???? Lost

You may be asking, WTF?  Why did The Mayor go from writing a hilariously funny and entertaining post every week, to barely a dozen over the last two years?

That is an excellent question and one I’ve been trying to answer for…well, the last two years.

I could tell you a lot of stuff happened, like:

My dad died,

and then;

My favorite aunt died,

and then;

My dog died,

and then;

We moved into the house from hell,

and then;

My husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer,

and then…

And then, I got stuck in Child’s Pose.  Literally.  Knees to chest, forehead pinned to a yoga mat.

My first yoga class in years and, unable to stand in Warrior 1, 2 or 3, I folded myself into Child’s Pose to wait for a position I could manage.  The problem became apparent immediately.  Once I arranged myself into Child’s Pose, huge crocodile tears rolled down my face and plopped onto the mat.  As the puddle of tears grew, the salty drops splashed back up onto my cheeks.

“Let’s continue our Vinyasa,” the teacher murmured to the class while tucking a pile of tissues next to me.  “Downward Dog…to Plank…to Cobra.”

I pushed up to try a Downward Dog but, the tears traveled upside down across my forehead and added to the growing dark patch on my purple mat.  Back to Child’s Pose, where I continued to weep silently until the class was over.

That was it.  I’m done.

I’m actually tired of being sad.

Khalil Gibran wrote: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”

I figure by now, my life can hold a shit-load of joy.

For example, this brings me joy.

Blue Mayor

I’ve spent a small fortune at Shutterstock and thought it would be better to pay an artist I’ve actually met.  This is a creation from one of the extremely talented members of the WTF Critique Group.  Annie is an artist, a writer, an art critic and a world traveler.  I hate her awesome talent.  I think she has awesome talent!

I asked her to make a drawing that looks like me but add a top hat.

Done and done.

Meet the Mayor of Crazie Town. She confirmed that hilariously funny and entertaining blog posts will soon follow.

 

The Man with the Neon Green Wig and a Half a Mannequin

Everyone Needs a Half a Mannequin

Aunt Kathleen would be sorry she missed this garage sale

I parked across the street from a church garage sale and watched as this man worked to arrange his purchase – a half a mannequin – into his bike cart. He reminded me of my Aunt Kathleen. Last week, I wrote about the great time I had as a child, visiting her fun-filled home [Click Here] and, a half-mannequin would have been a great addition to her play room.

Somewhere along the line though, as I progressed into adulthood, the tons of items in her home went from amusing to annoying.

When Grandpa died and she had to move to town, I helped her pack up all the junk treasures stacked in the rambling two story farm house so we could cram them into a tiny cottage she’d bought.

Every article had to be examined and evaluated for its worth and, as it turned out, everything was worth keeping. The only place we made progress was in the pantry where, with significant wheedling by my brother, Rick, and I, she agreed to part with the dusty jars of green beans that her mother had canned twenty years ago.

We also managed to toss out several things during the time Aunt Kathleen ran screaming from the house when we discovered at six-foot long black snake living in the pantry.  Rick picked up the rusty shovel that was in the kitchen (you keep a shovel in your kitchen, right?”) and killed the snake, tossing it through the back door where Aunt Kathleen had stood moments before. I froze, a scream ready to erupt when Rick punched my shoulder. “Quick,” he whispered. “Start shoving stuff into these trash bags.”  We managed to fill six bags before she returned.

Aunt Kathleen eyed them suspiciously. “Did I really agree to throw all that away?”

I ducked into the pantry while Rick dragged the bags out to the trash pile.

“Wait!” she cried and took a step to follow Rick out the door.

I held up a broom with a broken handle and said, “This can go in the trash, right?”

She gasped and snatched it from my hand. “Of course not. Mama used to use that to sweep off the front porch.”

That’s what I’ve learned about hoarders – each item has a strong emotional attachment, and to throw it away is akin to having one of their limbs cut off.

The fork with only three tines?

“Mama used to eat her pie with that fork.”

The moth-eaten military uniform?

“Your dad was wearing that when he came home from the war.”

And so it’s gone for the last thirty years. A broken television, kept because she’d bought it with her first paycheck, the new one placed on top of the old one. As she grew in girth, new clothes were hung on top of the smaller ones, which must be kept because she remembered where she’d gone in the outfit. The five hundred decorating magazines blocking the front door — filled with  projects she planned to create with the broken dishes she’d been collecting for years.

And now she’s gone and I’m tasked with going through it all again. The family and I spent a weekend shoveling out and sorting through the first layer. A hundred plastic bags from the dollar store with her purchases still inside. Another hundred bags stuffed with only empty plastic bags. And a dozen stacks, from floor to ceiling, of puzzles.

As I worked through the pile of thousands of empty envelopes and junk mail I could hear my brothers and sister mumbling. “What the? Why would she keep…the plastic tabs removed from her insulin medicine/the empty containers of hand lotion/the expired food?

Our next clean out will be in the basement. I wandered through it the other day and without the layer of trash, I found myself reappraising what’s left.

“Why, here’s a perfectly good wooden clothes-drying rack.” That doesn’t count as hoarding because I’ve been wanting one of those.

“Here’s a cast iron skillet.” That doesn’t count because I can use it in my camper.

“Well, what do you know. There’s her old treadle sewing machine where she taught me to sew.” That’s not hoarding – that’s keeping a memory, right?

It’s Not Hoarding, It’s a Funhouse!

shutterstock_108936575When I was a kid, my Aunt Kathleen lived 1/4 mile away from us. She and Grandpa shared a two-story, ramshackle stone house that had been built in 1856. Judging from the amount of stuff in it, that’s when my aunt started collecting. Now I know her problem is called “hoarding” but as a child, her home was a funhouse stuffed with ancient games and dress up clothes.

I can close my eyes right now and remember the sensation of stepping from the hot summer sun into the dark cool kitchen. It smelled like a combination of percolating coffee and layers of dust, with the slightly earthy hint of decaying food, a fragrance I found oddly comforting.

shutterstock_120611089In the background, static from the metal-framed black and white TV competed with the mack-truck-sized stereo that played Petula Clark singing “Downtown.”

I’d stop at the dining room table, slide an Oreo from it’s package and pat the mammoth orange tom cat that slept next to it. Then I’d inch past Grandpa sleeping in his chair, his one millionth game of solitaire laid out on a board across his lap.

As I twisted the Oreo apart and scraped the creamy filling off with my teeth, I’d wave to Aunt Kathleen. Her jet-black hair, piled in a beehive a yard high, wrapped turban-style with tissue paper and fastened with long pink clips.shutterstock_118550869 She’d be on the phone, talking to her friends or, just listening in on the party line.

If she was talking, I’d sit on the floor next to the stereo and wait for the next 45 to drop, while I eavesdropped on her conversation. If she put her fingers to her lips, that meant she was listening and I would tiptoe up the rickety staircase to the second floor, first room on the left.

Here, was magic – The Playroom. I’d don a battered Raggedy Ann wig, toss a molting fur wrap across my shoulders and slip into a mismatched pair of sequined shoes, demanding that the armless one-eyed doll do my bidding. Perhaps, I’d pull on a pair of too big overalls and buckle a six-shooter around my waist. Then I’d climb up on the molting rocking horse that no longer rocked and ride off into the sunset.

After fifteen minutes, or maybe two hours, Kathleen would call me down for an iced tea laced with spoonfuls of sugar. We’d sit out on the front porch in the swing. She’d point out the latest addition to her treasure trove and our conversation would go something like this:

“I found that boot on the side of the road. I thought I’d keep it. You know, in case someone breaks their leg and they need one shoe.”

“A’cept, wouldn’t they haveta have broken their left leg?” I questioned.

“That’s true.” Aunt Kathleen gave the giant swing a push. “Still, I have a 50/50 chance of having the shoe they need.”

“Yeah-but, wouldn’t ya it need to be the right size?”

“Hmmm. I hadn’t thought of that.” She stopped the swing and hauled herself up. “Run get me that shovel on the side of the shed.”

We moved slowly out to the center of the yard, her faded pink rubber flip-flops slapping against her wide heels. She thrust the rusty shovel into a patch of weeds and flowers.

Ten minutes later, the boot stood on the top step of the broken wooden porch with an orange day lily leaping out it.

I’m Not Judging…but…

HA-HA-HA-HA

The emotions surrounding my inability to write about my Crazie Aunt Kathleen aren’t quite clear to me.  Composing stories about her big brother (my father) has been easier, perhaps because he prided himself on his uniqueness.  Often times Dad knew his choice of actions or words would appear odd, but took that path anyway.

On the other hand, Aunt Kathleen doesn’t seem to recognize the peculiar things she does as…well…peculiar.  I guess what I saying is, I have a harder time laughing behind her back than I do the rest of my family.

I mean, who am I to judge that it would be Crazie to ask your niece to stop her car on the side of a busy highway and get out to pick up a shoe that’s lying in the ditch because “You never know when someone in the family might break their leg and they’d need just one shoe.”  And, in as much as I’m not judging, I didn’t point out that they’d have to break their left leg, and they’d have to wear a size 13 shoe.

Or who’s to say that it isn’t important on your way home from the hospital after an extensive stay in ICU to ask your niece to stop at the dollar store so you can buy ten bottles of lilac scented hand lotion to add to your vast collection at home?

This week she called to say the dentist told her she’d need to have all her teeth pulled and dentures made.  The cost would be approximately $5,000.

“So, of course,” she said.  “I called around to see who could do it cheaper.”

“Okayyyy,” I said, knowing the conversation was going to take a bizarre turn but not sure where that would be.

“There’s a place that advertises in the paper.  They’ll pull my teeth for $85 and make the dentures for $500.  What do you think?”

“I…well…”  I stuttered.  “I don’t even know where to start with my questions.”

“I know, it’s great, right?”

I’ll pause here to mention that Aunt Kathleen is not in the best of health.  She’s extremely obese, uses an oxygen tank and, because her joints no longer support her, she maneuvers around as slow as a snail with a walker.

“I’m not sure ‘great’ is the word I would have used,” I said and switching to my best adult-speaking-to-a-child voice I asked,  “Don’t you think it’s a little odd that one place wants $5,000 and one place wants $85?  That doesn’t seem right to me.”

“Exactly what I thought.  That dentist is ripping me off.”

I rubbed my forehead – a habit formed over years of trying to make sense of zany conversations with my family – and asked, “So the problem is the money?”

“Oh, I have enough.  That’s not the problem.”

“Then, what is?” I asked.

“Well, I’m afraid it will be a waste of money.”

“A waste?”

“I mean, what if I pay the $5,000 for the surgery and new teeth, and then I die next year?”

I am sorry to report that laughing behind her back was not the issue.  I laughed so long and so hard that she hung up on me.